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Doctor-prescribed narcotic pain medication remains an issue in patient safety.

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Recent years have seen studies urging doctors to discontinue prescribing narcotic pain medication to patients unnecessarily.  While overall prescriptions have decreased to an extent, doctors are still prescribing narcotics to patients for long periods of time rather than just short term to aid in temporary pain management.  Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management organization, released a report showing that patients who received narcotics for 30 days or more were 50% more likely to still be using them three years later.  Such prolonged use is indicative of addiction and is potentially dangerous.  Furthermore, many patients receiving an opiod (such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone) are also prescribed muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety drugs - a combination that could be deadly.  Combinations of such strong medications can slow down the respiratory system and cause severe reactions. Opiod overdoses cause 70% of accidental deaths in the U.S., and led to 16,000 deaths in 2012 alone.  Another factor that plays a key role in the danger of opiod overdose is that many patients receive different prescriptions from different doctors - for example, a narcotic from one doctor and an anti-anxiety medication from another - leading to doctors being unaware of every medication a patient is taking and causing potentially deadly situations.  Research urges doctors to be more conservative when prescribing pain medication, doing so only when necessary for severe pain or after surgery, and ending the prescription as soon as possible.

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